Saturday 6 January 2024

mitaarfik (11. 248)

Via Strange Company just in time for Three Kings Day (Kunngit Pingasut Ulluat), the apparitions usually first appearing on the Eve of Epiphany and continuing through the holiday marking the end of Christmastide, we are introduced to the terrifying figure of the Mitaartut a silent, masked mummer that sneaks up on people in the dark Greenlandic night. As with other syncretic traditions like that of Krampus and related rites, the coming of the Mitaarfik mixes indigenous customs and trappings like the harpoon and seal-skins with Christian ceremony and is adaptable to contemporary interpretation. Much more at Atlas Obscura at the link above.

Saturday 23 December 2023

hรคnsel und gretel (11. 209)

Premiering on this day in 1893 at the Weimarer Staatskapelle, the fairy-tale operetta by siblings Adelheid Witte and Engelbert Humperdinck and conducted by Richard Strauss was a much lauded adaptation of the Grimm Mรคrchen (somewhat toned down for audience appeal) for its folk-inspired musical motifs and has become a Christmas time staple. A family of poor subsistence farmers—broom-makers by trade—have a sudden boon when Father sells a bunch of his wares at good prices to villagers from beyond the forest preparing for a festival and want to clean their homes, returning with quite a bounty of food for them. Meanwhile Mother has sent her indolent children, who would rather play and complain about how hungry they are than attend to their chores, out to Ilsensteiner Wald at the foot of the Brocken to gather strawberries. Expositionally, Father says that that place is the home of the evil Knusperhexe (‘nibbling witch,’ usually played by the same singer as Mother) who lures away children with promises of treats and transforms them into gingerbread. Father and Mother rush to the enchanted woods to find the children but they very much have a handle on the situation.

11x11 (11. 208)

mmxxiii: the year in anniversaries, including the debuts of Question Hound, Casablanca, the World Wide Web, The Exorcist and the Yom Kippur War 

seasons greetings: decades of off-kilter Christmas cards from John Waters 

explainer: five video essays worth your holiday downtime 

tl;dr: public nominates longreads worth revisiting  

enigmatic chemical reactions: runaway chaotic catalysts are heating up two massive landfills near Los Angeles  

cash-on-deposit: leaving money in your bank-account also contributes to one’s carbon-footprint  

lithub: the biggest literary stories of the year 

a year in illustration: the collages accompanying Pluralistic posts  

re:view: Dezeen’s annual top tens 

et exaltavit humiles: a medieval token likely dispensed by a Boy Bishop, who held authority from the feast of Saint Nicholas through the Day of Holy Innocents, was discovered in Norfolk  

2023: the year in review from the Financial Times

Friday 22 December 2023

away in a mangษ™r (11. 203)

Having tried a similar experiment ourselves with the less-legible free version, we are happy that the expertpreviously—asked an AI image generator to make “a simple Christmas nativity scene with each element clearly labeled for a child who is learning to read.” An attempt was made and certainly the creche iconography is there but one wonders about the myriad shepherd, shopherd, shephep and their flock, the mogheh—Magi, Mogwai—and the new pageant of characters Jeboe and Josy. What’s their story?  Much more at the link above.


one year ago:  Bloomberg’s Jealously List, the Polish government-in-exile plus more mudlarking

two years ago: artist Osmar Schindler

three years ago: your daily demon: Orobas, crash blossoms, assorted links to revisit plus The Year Without Santa Claus

four years ago: Stand on Zanzibar 

five years ago: more links to enjoy, a living fossil caught plus more ISOTYPEs

Thursday 21 December 2023

reply-all (11. 202)

On this day in 1989, US vice-president James Danforth Quayle dispatched some thirty-thousand auto-pen (a machines usually reserved for authorising signatures or autographs and not without controversy) Christmas missives to family, friends and backers with the word “beacon” misspelt as “beakon.” Quite notably, Quayle’s team did not apparently use this as a learning opportunity to prevent later grammatical gaffes.

the ancient yuletide carol (11. 200)

Though conventions of the neopagan Wheel of the Year observes the holiday on the Winter/Summer Solstice, traditionally Yule fell later on the calendar and centred around Midwinter Night, a distinct date that falls several weeks later and corresponds to the first full Moon of beginning the month of ร†fterra Gฤ“ola (Second Yule, roughly corresponding with the Julian month of January). We know of this rescheduling due to documentation in the Saga of Haakon the Good of Norway, ruler during the Christianisation phase in the mid-tenth century, king and country mutually hiding their faith from one another to avoid friction, and synchronising yuletide festivities with Christmas, and mandating that all Norwegians celebrate under punishment of fines. Once Haakon solidified his power and earned the trust of the people, the king imported bishops from England and had them preach throughout the kingdom.


one year ago: The Czar Wants to Sleep, assorted links to revisit, the American insurrection that nearly happened over WWII plus works entering the public domain

two year ago: the breakaway Republic of Fredonia, Peter Canisius, Jack Russells plus season’s greetings from Tolkien 

three years ago: vรฉvรฉ symbols plus the world’s first crossword puzzle

four years ago: more links to enjoy

five years ago: negative fireworks, the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright inscribed in the UNESCO register plus a very Rex Factor Christmas

Wednesday 20 December 2023

7x7 (11. 199)

dongmei zone: seven months interred in a online scam labour camp—via Waxy  

santa claus go straight to the ghetto: David Byrne shares his Christmas playlist  

napolรฉon vu par abel gance: a 1927 ingenious, panoramic adaptation of the historical figure 

local inference: when AI assistants leave the cloud and haunt one’s laptop, all bets are going out the window—via Good Internet  

autogamy: evolutionary changes in wild pansies suggest that the flowers have given up on increasingly rare insects and are turning to self-pollination, a vicious cycle for the whole ecosystem 

tom & jerry: the typology of North American eggnog cartons—via Kottke  

jewel streets: a twelve-block neighbourhood known as the Hole of New York City neglected and forgotten for decades

Tuesday 19 December 2023

9x9 (11. 196)

mister jingeling: a dozen, beloved department store Christmas characters—see also—via Miss Cellania

bubblenomics: pondering the consequences of when AI goes the way of crypto and NFTs 

indefinite causal order: quantum batteries are powered by paradox—via Damn Interesting  

a winter’s tale: selected readings of Christmas ghost stories—via Things Magazine  

the waitresses: the cynical anti-holiday hit Christmas Wrapping that became a festive classic 

infinite jukebox: a clever AI application that extends songs forever  

high ground: study of the competition for space dominance between the US and China suggests America occupy Lagrange points to counter malign ambitions  

52 snippets: facts gleaned from economics and finance from the past twelve months 

snoopy come home: Gen Z rediscovers and identifies with the Peanuts’ character

Wednesday 13 December 2023

7x7 (11. 186)

itsy-bitsy: a performance on the SpiderHarp, a large scale model originally developed to study vibrations and triangulation on a web  

origin story: how Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer began as a department store promotional giveaway  

owl001: BBC hacked live on the air in 1983—see also—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links  

marie mathรฉmatique: the adventures of the younger sister of Barbarella, scored by Serge Gainsbourg—see more  

ggwp: the E3 gaming conference has been shuttered permanently  

the great toy robbery: an animated classic from the National Film Board of Canada 

ikea monkey: the happy life of Darwin the macaque after its moment of fame—previously

Monday 11 December 2023

merry mixmas (11. 180)

Via Pluralistic, we are reacquainted with the seasonal tradition of DJ Riko that’s spanned two decades and is still going strong. Begun as CD mix-tape sent to friends as a very special Christmas card, his unadulterated but refreshed playlists covering multiple eras, interpretations and genres started circulating on the internet and caught the attention of established media and their use is encouraged for one’s own holiday greetings and personal soundtrack. Good for those wanting to avoid the standard programming, click the cover image to listen to the full album.

Sunday 10 December 2023

you know dasher and dasher and dancet and vixen, ronner and prxet and donten and blinsen (11. 177)

Via Nag on the Lake’s always excellent Sunday Links, we are once again directed to another seasonal experiment from our trusty AI Wrangler, Janelle Shane (previously) with a collaborative prompt to illustrate Christmas carols. Making an earnest effort to picture each rousing verse, there’s of course some degradation as the advanced chatbot try to interpret the Twelve Days of Christmas and others but considering that the lyrics and imagery for the nonce, fossilised phrases that only occur in these standards, there are surprisingly few though choice digressions. Besides if robots didn’t hallucinate, you wouldn’t get a Santataur from this centaur of a computer-human hybrid composition nor the extended Kringleverse. Much more from AI Weirdness at the link above.

Friday 8 December 2023

x’temmas (11. 171)

Via Strange Company, we are treated to an interesting Q & A on the etymological roots and spelling conventions of the winter holidays Christmas and Hanukkah. The Jewish festival of lights (ื‘ื—ื ื•ื›ื”) has undergone many variations since first transliterated in print in the seventeenth century as has the celebration of the Nativity since first appearing in the written record in the late 900s in Old English as Xpes mรฆsse with the chi-rho christogram (see previously) several other historical ways of expressing the holiday. More from Grammarphobia at the link up top.

Thursday 7 December 2023

9x9 (11. 169)

sub-space: the potential problems of communications with relativistic spacecraft, traveling at a fraction the speed of light with solar-sails  

new quality productivity: Chinese buzz-words of the year, including a coinage by President Xi 

ailex: artist Alicia Framis announces her marriage to a hologram  

der nussknacker: the Fรผchtner family who made the first traditional nutcracker is still in the business  

wallsynth: Love Hultรฉn’s custom, one-of-a-kind musical creations have a Mid-Century Modern aesthetic  

the day of the animals: a 1977 nature rampage film from William Girdler  

network effects: building a better, unbundled Craigslist turned out like the trajectory of Twitter 

american dream: Investopedia’s most searched economic terms of the year reveal a lot about how people feel about their financial situation 

 in space, no one can hear you kern: when lost in the inner Solar System, typography can come in handy


one year ago: Blue Marble (1972), Sovereign Citizens plus using AI to invent a language

two years ago: galaxies outside our own plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: birdsong in December, more links to enjoy, non-conterminious territory plus more words of the year

four years ago: the Guzman Prize awarded (1969), Scientology HQ plus a lunar cruise

five years ago: the etymology of chauvinism, Dr Magnus Hirschfeld, circular economies, more movie typography plus juxtaposing photography


Sunday 3 December 2023

9x9 (11. 160)

caput apri defero, reddens laudes domino: an annual procession dating back to the fourteenth century that marks the beginning of Christmas season in London 

pingxiety: an update on the aerospace engineer’s anti-smart phone—see previously  

settled law: a carol to reaffirm that Die Hard is in fact a Christmas movie  

pocket universe: scientists in Germany re-create the Cosmos in a test tube to tweak the laws of physics for this primordial simulation  

pilea peperomiodes: the Chinese money plant goes by another common name for good reasons  

such fun: noun and adjectival usage of the intensifier on either side of the Atlantic  

anthrobots: researchers have created tiny, living robots from human cells that could one day patrol for diseases and repair damaged tissue  

there used to be a house at 6114 california street: a interview at home with Anton LaVey in 1967—see previously—via r/Obscure Media  

coquito ho ho: a guide to festive variations on classic cocktails

Thursday 30 November 2023

countdown (11. 150)

In anticipation of Advent, our trusted AI-wrangler Janelle Shane (see previously) has created their own interactive calendar with the help (or hinderance) of the latest iteration of ChatGPT integrated with the image-creator DALL แง E. Having no luck getting it to follow labelling instructions in the usual format, Shane took the alternate tactic of asking for seasonal items captioned as for language learners and compiled those uncannily close or far off, Hot Choclate, Hoy Choclรฆ, Gingerboman and Ice Smat—verging towards even weirder territory when asked to generate a whole holiday spread around the hearth, which prompted me to request a Nativity Scene (on the older, free version) with some rather glitchy outcomes.


one year ago: the first modern ban on capital punishment, assorted links worth the revisit plus AI poetry

two years ago: a historic public health mission 

three years ago: another MST3K classic short, more links to enjoy, a nuisance filing, weasel words plus a troupe of abstract dancers

four years ago: the hallowed ground of native Los Angeles plus the Feast of St Andrew

five years ago: Datarama, stupendous pipe organs plus pictures of an empty laundromat

Tuesday 28 November 2023

9x9 (11. 146)

the big easy: Bonapartist diaspora had designs for Napoleon to retire in New Orleans—via Messy Nessy Chicsee also courtesy of Super Punch  

holiday emporium: Kottke’s annual gift guide returns after a hiatus  

triple word score: players and lexicographers are a bit mortified with Scrabble’s new tournament rules  

colophon: the rise and fall of Borders Books 

moonlight towers: during the infancy of electric lighting, there was a predecessor to serial lamps  

pump and dump: insurance companies are exacerbating the climate crisis 

fiat: during the bank strikes of Ireland in the 1970s, pubs stepped in to fill their function—via the new shelton wet/dry  

ai garage sale: haggle with robots for real items—via Waxy  

pas de goulots d’รฉtranglement dans la production: a strange 1940 diagram from linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf presenting French as a factory assembly line

Saturday 25 November 2023

you ain’t got to feel guilt just selfless—give a little help to the helpless (11. 139)

Recorded on this day in 1984 at a studio in Notting Hill, the charity album written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, the title single by the Band Aid supergroup, comprised of artists including Phil Collins, George Michael, Boy George and members of Spandau Ballet, U2, Kool & the Gang, Bananarama, Duran Duran and the Police (with messages from David Bowie and Paul McCartney on the B-side), released on 3 December became the fasting-selling single in chart history—until surpassed by Elton John’s tribute song “Candle in the Wind 1997.” Far outstripping expectations, it raised over eight million pounds within the first year and the model led to a series of reprisals and other fund-raising ventures, like the Live Aid concerts and the “We Are the World” recordings. Whilst consistently ranked among most favoured Christmas songs, the song contains tropes of colonialism, evangelising and a simplistic view of Africa (Bono had to be begged to sing the line “Well—tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”), Geldof later laments being responsible “for the two worst songs in history”—the other being the above US-based “We Are the World,” but it wasn’t about the music but rather the spirit of the season.

Friday 24 November 2023

oh no—my own dog, gone commercial (11. 137)

Via Waxy, we are directed to another soundtrack from Louie Zong (see previously) for a fictional albeit believable 1970s style Peanuts holiday special complete with Vince Guaraldi inspired jazz that captures the ethos not only for the shoppers but those working on Black Friday. Other musical segments include Cyber Monday Blues, Buyer’s Remorse, A New Week and Snoopy vs Capitalism. One could imagine the anti-consumerism messages of the limned out television special plus the harried cashiers and store workers just out the frame speaking with muffled trombone voices.

Friday 17 November 2023

8x8 (11. 123)

aล‚k’idฤ…́ฤ…́’ yรกdahodiiz’ฤ…́ฤ…́dฤ…́ฤ…́’ yรก’รกhonรญkรกรกndi: an update on Stars Wars dubbed in to the Dinรฉ bizaad language of the Navajo people—see previously 

hallucinate: the new meaning of the psychological verb picked for Cambridge dictionaries’ Word of the Year 

chipophone: Vivaldi performed on Commodore instruments—see previously 

wikiwho: guess the person from their Wikipedia biography—via Web Curios  

prisencolinensinainciusol: revisiting the Italo Pop song with nonsense lyrics that was meant to sound like English singing—see previously 

veistospuutarha: the sculpture garden of of Veijo Rรถnkkรถnen  

here we observe the sophisticated homo sapiens: an unauthorised David Attenborough voice-clone to narrate one’s daily activities—see also  

life day: a fresh look on the Star Wars Holiday Special on its forty-fifth anniversary 


one year ago: the Hand of Irulegi plus a Soviet moonwalker (1970)

two years ago: another MST3K classic plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: more links to enjoy, a rebuttal from Nixon (1973) plus St Hugh of Lincoln

four years ago: the Velvet Revolution plus world flags reimagined in the style of Kazakhstan’s 

five years ago: a Japanese view on American history, the mind of a scammer, more links to enjoy plus the Star Wars Holiday Special

Wednesday 1 November 2023

drei haselnรผsse fรผr aschenbrรถdel (11. 087)

The Czechoslovakian-East German co-production of the Bohemian variation of the fairy tale (Tล™i oล™รญลกky pro Popelku, Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella) opened in theatres on this day in 1973. Enduring and shown around Christmas time and making the circuit through the channels much like It’s A Wonderful Life the primary filming location was Schloss Moritzburg between Meissen and Dresden. The village is in a frenzy as the royal entourage will be stopping en route to their nearby castle, with rumours that the eligible Prince (portrayed by Rolf Hoppe) will choose a bride during the local fรชte. Cinderella’s step mother keeps her busy with menial and seemingly impossible chores in order to keep the competition to a minimum and showcase her less attractive and wicked step-sister. Doves, however, come to Cinderella’s assistance and finishes the tasks, affording her the free time to wander in the woods and encounter the prince and his hunting party, who are impressed with her equestrian skills. Later gifted three wish-granting filberts, Cinderella is able to regale herself with various disguises to become the King-of-the-Hunt as well as the belle of the ball.


 one year ago: another penny black, assorted links to revisit plus the Word of the Year

two years ago: another Word of the Year plus a starting point to restore our burning world

three years ago: The Mask (1961), the Sistine Chapel opened to the public plus indigenous characters in comics

four years ago: a space odyssey, World Vegan Day, more mushrooming plus Blade Runner

five years ago: Trump activates the army to guard the border, movie ratings, an Ansel Adams’ photograph plus a bio brick